A rider who has broken her back, ribs, sternum and wrist in two separate incidents during the past two years has completed the Wobbleberry challenge – on a horse she thought would have to be put down.
Jane Shepstone and Bushfield Diamond (Paddy) completed the BE80(T) at Askham Bryan College on 12 October, two years after Jane had decided to take on the challenge.
“I signed up – but then I just decided to start throwing myself off horses for fun!” she said.
“In the build-up to it the first year, a horse spooked into me as I was bringing him in in the wind and sent me flying – I ended up with a lot of metalwork in my wrist and that pretty much wrote off the first year.
“Last year, I had an entry in, and was going to do an unaffiliated event as a warm-up, all the training was terrific – then I had an accident.”
Jane was galloping Paddy in a field when, in a freak set of circumstances, a lorry carrying a crane appeared on the road the other side of the fence.
“The arm of the crane came over the hedge towards us,” she said. “It freaked my horse out completely because he hadn’t seen it coming, and neither had I.
“He bolted and because he went so fast, he kept up with the crane, which was swinging back and forwards.
“I came off at such speed, it was like landing on concrete. I had four broken ribs, a cracked sternum and a cracked vertebra. That accident was my lowest point.”
Jane said that having come back to the point of entering an event, a challenge she hoped would rebuild her confidence after previous horse-related injuries, this latest fall made her consider giving up riding.
“I thought sell the horses, be sensible, I’m 50 this year,” she said. “I was thinking I was rubbish but my friends and trainers said I’d just been unlucky. It wasn’t my fault, and hadn’t been because I couldn’t ride. They picked me up and I thought ‘let’s go for it’.”
Jane was told she could not ride again for eight months but having broken her back before, she said, she knew if she waited that long, she would struggle with nerves.
“I thought if I didn’t do it when I did, I never would,” she said.
“Knowing it hadn’t been Paddy’s fault made it easier trying to process it all mentally, I just knew I had to get on.”
By the end of last year, Jane was jumping again, so she set her sights on completing the challenge this season. As she works at weekends a great deal, the “season was disappearing”, while the unaffiliated competitions she had planned to enter were lost to the weather.
“So Saturday at the event was my first time doing a proper cross-country course,” she said. “I didn’t really mind what happened in the dressage, and had myself in a good place with showjumping – but the cross-country terrified me witless.
“My good friend Will walked it with me and he realised by fence four that I was absolutely green; it was all going horribly wrong. I just thought I’d have to do what everyone says: kick on and see how it all works out.
“We had one naughty run-out – he just jumped sideways – but otherwise, it was great. We got round, never having done it before, and when I came through the finish, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or pee myself. I was so happy and emotional, I think I did all three!”
The achievement – they scored 31 in the dressage and had one down showjumping – was all the more special to Jane as two years ago, she thought she would lose Paddy.
“He had problems with his suspensories and hocks, we couldn’t keep him sound,” she said. “He’s such a big chunk of a horse and every time we almost got him right, something else would happen.
“I’d made the decision to put him down but my friend Donna said ‘give me six months with him’ – she rehabbed him and it was the best thing we’ve ever done.
“Just before the event; I was thinking ‘we shouldn’t be here’, but my vet texted me to say we’d have an amazing time. I’m not the sort of person who cries but the reality of it all just hit me.
“He’s fitter and stronger than he’s ever been; I got back this fit, amazing, wonderful horse. His personality is brilliant; he’s cheeky and naughty, but what a dude, to get me round.”
‘If something does happen, I know I’ve had a fulfilling life; that’s all anyone can ask for’
Clare Reeves raised close to £15,000 for charity by undertaking the Wobbleberry challenge while undergoing chemotherapy and surgery
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Jane has raised over £11,000 for Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity through her challenge, which she described as “incredible”.
“When Hannah [Francis] died, it was so emotive,” she said. “I remember thinking about this girl I’d never met, and seeing how brave she was with all she did while she was so ill, and I thought ‘I can do this’.
“I’ve always been a wimpy rider but she’s been so inspiring to so many people, and I think that’s what kept me going.”
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